We have a special goodbye in the WSBT family for someone who truly has seen it all. Isaiah Cooks has been a WSBT photojournalist here for 36 years, just about unheard of in this business.
He's been there for all the big important stories and he's made sure you were there too.
We talk a lot about the Blizzard of ‘78. But Isaiah Cooks was out in it. Getting the pictures to document that historic weather event and the information you needed to know to stay safe.
For Isaiah, it was a chance to tell a story and that's what's kept him motivated.
“Cause when you get up in the morning, you're coming to work, you know you're going to be telling a story, but you never know what kind of story you're going to be telling. That has been my juice that gets me up in the morning to get me out there day after day after day after day in all kinds of weather. That has been the thing that kept me out there.”
Sometimes those stories have been devastating. The brutal murders of three Osco employees inside South Bend store on Western Avenue in 1990. The head-on crash of two South Shore trains on the gauntlet bridge in 1993 in Gary. Seven people died there and more than 60 other were hurt. That scene was especially upsetting.
“There have been times when I've covered stories and it has taken me weeks to get over it. I talk to people. I have people I can go and talk to about what I've dealt with.”
Isaiah has seen it all … especially the transformation of news through technology from black-and-white film to digital.
“Now it's instant. Now you have your satellite truck there and within a couple of seconds after you shoot your video you can be on the air.”
Photojournalism can be unpopular work … getting up close and personal.
“I always feel like I'm intruding on stuff because some of the stuff that we shoot and some of the stories that we tell are highly personal. So you have to respect that, but you have to go and you gotta tell the story. So from a photographer's standpoint, you can't let that bother you.”
But Isaiah’s done it all these years because he knows it's important work.
“Our job is to get the message out and let people make their own decisions.”
And Isaiah has done his job very well and taught dozens of others to do it, too. Thanks Isaiah from all of us at WSBT. Enjoy your retirement Isaiah. It is well earned!